Bold new period hospital drama from Steven Soderbergh starring Clive Owen
The trend for renowned cinema types to make a move into TV (aka that place where The Big Stories are being told) continues with Steven Soderbergh directing the ten episodes of a bold new US medical drama. If the phrase ‘medical drama’ makes you think of any number of insubstantial and fluffy shows, you can be reassured by the fact that The Knick is an HBO production, the iconic cable channel not exactly known for its lack of substance.
So, during the opening five minutes of this 1900 New York-set show we have suicide, death on the operating table and cocaine being injected into the toe of a surgeon to get him up for the job. Holby City it most certainly ain’t, buddy. Clive Owen takes on the central role as John W Thackery, a brilliant but flawed (naturally) physician at the Knickerbocker Hospital, where a health revolution is taking place in the wards, even if its racial politics remain arcane.
When a lovely ghost from Thackery’s past floats by with a terrifying condition requiring even scarier treatment, his belief that a doctor is in trouble when they start replacing an obsession with medical practice with worrying about the human being on the table is put sternly to the test. Meanwhile, the arrival of Dr Algernon Edwards (Andre Holland) to the hospital brings a depressing racial tension to the mix with him being treated by his fellow surgeons as a first-year medical student at best and a piece of dirt at worst.
While The Knick is clearly brilliant, it takes a while to get used to the dubby musical motif, as anachronistically weird as Boardwalk Empire’s Britpop theme tune, and Clive Owen is not everyone’s cup of arsenic. But his deadpan acting style works perfectly for this part of a lifetime, even if his American-ish accent comes out dripping wet from all its pond-hopping.
The Knick starts on Sky Atlantic, Thu 16 Oct, 9pm.